The City of Cape Town has moved to suspend four law enforcement officers who were shown on video evicting a naked man from his shack during a demolition of informal dwellings in Khayelitsha on Wednesday.
The video, widely circulated on social media, shows several metro police officers surrounding a shack while two officers push the unidentified man out of his home.
The man is tackled to the ground, while another police officer is shown kneeling on his back. Onlookers attempting to assist are pepper-sprayed.
It’s believed the man was bathing at the time of the eviction.
Cape Town’s executive director for safety and security, Richard Bosman, said in a statement on Wednesday night that an investigation into the incident is under way, with disciplinary proceedings expected to be implemented.
“We are in the process of suspending four staff members involved in the incident, pending the outcome of the investigation. The suspension also ensures that staff are not targeted while on duty. We are saddened by the conduct depicted on the video footage, and we do not condone any forceful and dehumanising conduct by our staff members,” Bosman said.
The City said their primary purpose was to carry out anti-land invasion operations to protect land earmarked for housing development, but added that it does not condone violence by law-enforcement staff.
“The City takes these allegations very seriously,” Bosman said.
The land in question in the Empolweni settlement has been subject to a legal battle, with the City acquiring an eviction order to remove people, because the property has been earmarked for development.
The City government came under fire in April after it embarked on evictions in this area, even though lockdown regulations to curb the spread of the coronavirus explicitly ban the exercising of eviction orders.
After a ruling by the Western Cape high court, only 49 households have been given rights to temporarily remain on the land until after the lockdown.
“After the removal of illegally built structures, new attempts are made to invade again on a daily basis … The City must also maintain this recent court order, which the community is aware of,” the Democratic Alliance-led local government’s statement said.
Social justice group Ndifuna Ukwazi — which has been assisting people since the first evictions in April — said that it will be calling for Bosman, and mayoral committee member for safety JP Smith to be held accountable for the “abhorrent violation of the rights to dignity, privacy, and housing” of the man.